It’s an honest debate and a reasonable dilemma: Should the city of New York continue with its plans to hold the 42nd annual marathon this Sunday? 50,000 participants will be here to compete.
According to the Mayor, “It’s a great event for New York, and I think for those who were lost, you know, you’ve got to believe they would want us to have an economy and have a city go on for those that they left behind.”
Others feel differently as residents in the five boroughs continue to suffer through the resounding effects of Hurricane Sandy. I live on 57th Street and can bear witness to the near anarchy that the city now suffers. I was here on September 12, 2001 (having been in Arlington, Va on the 11th). It’s different and yet, in many ways, the same.
From my apartment, I see the 30 tons of crane wreckage dangling 90 floors up; I watched over 300 people on one city corner today waiting for a bus after a long day at work, witnessed the sidewalks overrun with the tired and the weak trying to get anywhere without public transport. Because there was no mass transit, many people drove; I weathered the horns from angry motorists and the rampant gridlock that paralyzed this city at every corner. And all of this is in midtown — far from the real tribulations and aftermath of the storm, the hundreds of thousands without power, without a home, or even worse, suffering a loss of life.
Critics of the plan to hold a marathon say the application of police and fire crews to a sporting event are a poor use of the city’s resources at a time when there are so many more families in need. It’s not an assertion to be taken lightly.
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The New York City Marathon is a symbol of triumphant free will over natural challenges, a testament to the power of the human spirit to endure and conquer, to break through boundaries that were once inconceivable. What better metaphor could one ask for on the heels of the storm now called the greatest tragedy in the history of the city?
It’s natural for us to wonder intellectually about the costs, about the common sense in carrying on with what feels like a frivolous event in a devastating moment.
I would just counter with one thought, which is that when the race is held, more people will be watching on fewer screens than previously planned, and they will be substantially elevated in spirit. Those with serious pain will be alleviated for a brief moment, knowing that their fortitude, their desires, fears, hopes — indeed, their will to go on — is very much the same as those runners whose hearts are pumping just as fast as their own, competing just as hard and just as purely, against all odds. That benefit to a community is priceless.
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